5 things impacting the future of the logistics and haulage industry
By Ian | Nov, 09, 2023 | Blog
The logistics and haulage industry has faced its fair share of turbulence over recent years. With a pandemic, international conflict, and rampant cost of living hikes playing a big role in economic performance worldwide, it’s only reasonable to keep an eye on the future and what’s to come.
As the backbone of our nation’s economy, identifying and anticipating the future of logistics is of the utmost importance to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
So, with that in mind, we’ve put together our top five things set to impact the future of the logistics and haulage industry. Read on to find out more about the opportunities and challenges on the road ahead.
Whilst Artificial Intelligence isn’t anything new to the logistics industry, the developments being made with each passing day open up a host of new opportunities for forward-thinking companies.
Warehouse robots have been utilised for a while now, but the developments made to their technology provides even higher levels of efficiency and autonomy than ever before. With pioneering tech behind them, these robots are now adaptable and aware enough to work side by side with human professionals without putting them in harm’s way.
Able to complete a range of tasks from locating and picking cargo, to loading and unloading delivery trucks, these next-generation warehouse robots can save time, budget, and cut down on human error.
Arguably the most exciting and futuristic AI development in the pipeline is that of self-driving vehicles. Something once only seen in sci-fi films, self-driving vehicles are now a very real fixture in many businesses around the world.
As they are self-operated, these automatic drivers can theoretically stay on the road for 24 hours a day with no rest time needed, helping to speed up the haulage process and reduce risks to those on the road. With levels of consistency unmatched by human operators, AI can help the industry run smoothly year-round, whilst saving money on fuel by maintaining a consistent driving pattern.
An extension of this technology is self-driving forklifts or warehouse vehicles, capable of completing heavy-duty tasks. Combined with warehouse robots, these self-driving vehicles can automate almost every warehouse task with ease and no risk to personnel.
However, it’s not just out in the field that AI can prove its worth. By integrating intelligent solutions into each step of the supply chain, companies can streamline their office functions, provide higher levels of personalised customer service, employ more specific targeting measures for marketing campaigns, and ensure consistency of back-end operations.
Vic Faulkner, Operations Director at X2, says, “There’s no doubting the potential of Artificial Intelligence for the logistics industry in 2024 and beyond, and there’s every reason to be excited about what’s to come. However, the challenge now for our industry is striking a careful balance that facilitates jobs for our people and capitalises on what this technology can offer us.”
The rise of 4PLs
Another topic of interest for the logistics forecast is that of the rise of 4PLs (Fourth Party Logistics). Whilst 3PLs (Third Party Logistics) have become commonplace across the industry, 4PLs are a relatively new concept that can offer even higher levels of efficiency and risk management.
Acting as a single point of contact without a single point of failure for companies in need of logistical support, 4PLs like X2 maintain an extensive network of more than 1,000 industry partners. Backed by such a robust network, 4PLs can provide full-spectrum support for an organisation’s logistical activities, rather than just taking on one specific role as a 3PL would.
By covering a laundry list of responsibilities from carrier procurement and haulage completion to analytical reporting and budget management, 4PLs are becoming ever the more attractive for businesses of all scales.
Ian Cramb, Managing Director at X2, says, “The 4PL business model is one that offers a long list of benefits for any business requiring logistical support. De-risking your supply chain with an asset-light business model and focusing on a single point of contact provides a seamless working process for our clientele, and we’re confident that, as time goes on, many more organisations will begin to take advantage of what a 4PL like X2 can offer them.”
PWC Logistics also commented on the benefits of 4PLs, “New entrants to the industry are finding ways to carve out the more lucrative elements of the value chain by exploiting digital technology or new ‘sharing’ business models, and they don’t have asset-heavy balance sheets or cumbersome existing systems weighing them down.”
Going hand in hand with industry 4.0, the economical shift towards digitalisation, logistics 4.0 is the ongoing overhaul of the industry to take greater advantage of the opportunities provided by digital advancement.
One of the main benefits provided by logistics 4.0 is smart supply chain management. Smart supply chain management is essentially incorporating logistics 4.0 practices into each step of the chain, from automating processes to collecting and organising data.
Logistics 4.0 also goes hand-in-hand with AI developments, such as designing and monitoring the processes which power warehouse robots or driverless vehicles. By more precisely collecting and extrapolating data, the introduction of logistics 4.0 can make smarter decisions in response to industry shifts or consumer habits.
Digitalisation provides numerous benefits for businesses involved in logistics management. From saving time and money to reducing error and increasing visibility throughout the supply chain, logistics 4.0 is the future of the logistics industry.
Vic Faulkner, Operations Director at X2, says, “Both as a company and a member of the logistics industry, we are always looking ahead at how we can improve our processes to provide higher levels of service. Implementing logistics 4.0 to streamline communication, champion sustainability, and increase end-user satisfaction is the perfect example of us taking the next step towards changing our industry for the better.”
As our industry changes, so does our audience. With more competition for their commerce than ever before, what customers want, and more importantly the ways in which they want it, puts increasing demands on the logistics industry.
With companies such as Amazon Prime setting the trend for next, or even same day delivery, consumers have become more and more accustomed to getting what they ordered in record time. This has clearly caused a shift in the market, as now 99% of retailers have stated their intention to offer same day delivery by 2025.
Whilst they demand faster delivery, they don’t expect to pay through the nose for it. Consumers are looking for free or low-cost delivery solutions, showing that delivery within 24 hours is becoming the norm, not an added benefit. With this becoming normalised in B2C, this may likely become more of an expectation in B2B, too.
Whilst urgency is the order of the day, it’s important to remember the knock-on impacts of increasing delivery speeds. By putting more trucks on the road, or carrying out local deliveries with just a few packages on board, there is the potential of increasing your environmental impact and carbon footprint.
So, it’s a bit of a catch 22. Nearly 90% of Gen X consumers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products, but they also want these products delivered extremely quickly. This opens up potential for much competition between companies as they strive to find this middle ground.
Looming driver shortage
The final of our five things set to impact the logistics industry for 2024 and beyond is the looming driver shortage.
The most recent HGV driver shortage, in 2021/22, was originally thought to be caused by a drop in driver numbers of 23% – however, new ONS data has revealed that this number was actually considerably lower at just 15%.
Here’s where it gets complicated. Whilst ONS data might say the next HGV driver shortage is as many as seven years away, X2’s experience and insight across its network of 1,000+ partners points towards a potential crisis much sooner. With the volatile state of world events, one small shift in any one of the current issues could cause a monumental shift in demand.
With almost half a million Driver Qualification Cards set to expire before the end of 2024, the number of available drivers for the future looks precarious, meaning an overnight shift in consumer demand could spell trouble for the industry.
However, in response to this information, the UK government has taken action by increasing HGV training provision and incentives to bring former drivers back into the fold. Whilst this certainly isn’t an instant fix, it’s an important step in the right direction for long-term driver availability.
Whilst the logistics industry is set to face tribulations in the near future, there are a host of upcoming developments which can help to plug the gap.
From driverless vehicles to the security of a 4PL network, the logistics forecast is filled with solutions for businesses looking to safeguard their operations for the long-term.
If you’re interested in finding out more about how a 4PL can help your business, get in touch today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
 Consumers want ultrafast delivery – and they want it today, SupplyChainDive, 2023
 Consumers demand sustainable products and shopping formats, Forbes, 2022